I asked this question about an hour ago, which was promptly answered.

Even after an answer was posted and accepted, a user continues to troll me in the comments. I looked up this user, who has low rep and may therefore be sincerely asking questions to learn about the community.

My question is a little more general - if I detect what I think is the starting of a flame war, what should I do? I know that insults, etc are not tolerated by the SO community and should be flagged as "not welcome here", but how should I respond to a troll (and please correct me if I'm overreacting here)?

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    Flag the post for moderator attention. Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 20:21
  • It's not exactly a good question is it... Googling "python pep" returns it as the first result (for me) and the Wikipedia PEP disambiguation page as the second... which leads to the Python acronym. You shouldn't be being hassled though. Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 20:22
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    You should not respond to a troll. Trolls only succeed if you respond. Flag if it becomes inappropriate. That's all.
    – Bart
    Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 20:26
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    @Ben: normally, I'd usually buy into the JFGI argument, but as I explained on the post, my Google-Fu just wasn't good enough then Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 20:28
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    It's actually something that I think should probably have been asked years ago and there are plenty of similar questions with upvotes @inspector, it would have been great if the (overly) upvoted answerer posted a proper answer rather than just a link. That doesn't make the question good. You can ask questions like this without simply saying "my Google-Fu broke down". Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 20:32
  • I flagged one of the later comments ("how come everybody else knows what PEP is then.."). Thank you for the advice everyone Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 20:44
  • just ignore him. It's what I would do Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 21:08
  • It's a terrible question. It shows that you haven't even attempted a basic search. I'm amazed that it a) has any up-votes at all and b) took more than 2 hours to become closed.
    – user164207
    Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 22:37
  • @JackManey: PEP1 was not part of any of the search results when I searched for the keywords that you suggest. This is why I had to post the question (which I also explained in my post) Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 1:09

3 Answers 3


As Null notes, flag it. Explain the situation, and a moderator will step in to make sure folks settle down. It's what they're here for.


Just step out, and avoid replying her/him. If her/his comments are being a little too offensive, flag them for moderation attention.

A question could be not good, but no comment should be left about who asked it, especially if they are offensive.
"What did you find when you searched?" is a better comment than "You should search before asking a question." A comment explaining that a question is not a good fit for the site is better than a comment saying the OP should not waste the time of who answers.


The default reaction to a concern that "maybe I'm being trolled" should be to just stop replying to that person. If they haven't actually done anything wrong or violated any rules, and you're just worried about escalation, leaving the issue alone will solve a high percentage of cases.

If, despite your effort to avoid escalation, if you notice others beginning to argue anyway, or you see comments that you feel are really causing a problem, and not just baiting one, then you should flag the post (and continue to not comment). A moderator will then be able to step in and remove any comments they feel are inappropriate, and possibly even lock the post (temporarily) to prevent new comments if a debate is getting too heated.

If you are unsure about whether some behavior is over the line or not, or you feel that some behavior is really appropriate and the flag is declined, then you should post here on meta with links to the relevant content. Someone will be able to explain if it's appropriate, why it is/isn't appropriate, and it will also likely draw enough attention for the appropriate action(s) to take place.

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